househunt

January 16, 2005 at 7:14 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

the mid-day sun imposes its might. the clouds submit to this authority, exposing a clear blue sky. all is powerless before the impalpable fire of this star that sustains as much as it hurts.

for one moment i am homeless.

i knock on doors, strangers of all colors greet me. some overflow with assurances, some are skeptic. where do you work? how much do you earn? who will live with you? you will like it here, there are no children in the other units. you’ll have your own water and electricity meter. we’ll do the repairs once the deposit is made. we expect the tenant to move out by next week.
the story goes the same for millions out there, but in this search, i am truly alone.

my first prospect is a house in the projects, in an out of the way street with houses so close to each other i begin to wonder if they have any walls between them. the landlady is a nice woman in her mid-40s who does not ask too many questions. the apartment is the fifth in a series of units, and i have to make my way through a labyrinth of laundry hanging above the driveway. the apartment itself is rustic, in need of repairs. with some work, it would turn out fine, especially with mom’s magic touch. but as i make my way out of the compound and start to look for a ride, i find there are no cabs or jeepneys or tricycles in sight.

my second prospect is an apartment near the araneta center. the building is a four-floor condo-type complex, but the rough finishing of the ceiling and the elaborate stairs make me feel nauseous and claustrophobic. i have to get out before i run out of air. with a few niceties i quickly bid the good doktora my farewell and vow to myself to never come back.

near that apartment is another condo-type complex with a vacant unit on the ground floor. it is scandalously spacious, there are two bedrooms on the second floor and a batroom in one of them, aside from the one downstairs. it would be a blast decorating this apartment. but it comes with a bill that is twice my budget. at once i begin to think how this budget would affect the rest of my year, and i realize it would have to wait.

this seach comes to an end, temporarily, as the horizon makes an entrance. the sun has its face buried halfway through, the clouds come back in a blanket of tangerine calm. the sun submits to the awful truth that as a star, it is not alone as more and more of its kind, though distant, make their presence felt in the evening sky.

i remain earthbound. gravity pulling me back to the ground no matter how far i set my sight. the evening chill. the pang of hunger. in a city so big, we all yearn for a quiet corner of our own at the end of the day. and so i give in as well and go home.

i’ve never had my own home. i’ve spent my life moving around manila, from apartment to apartment, and home is not one place with one fixed image in my head. there are no white picket fences, there is no porch. there are only contracts, deposits and doorkeys, a stranger who drops by every payday to collect. there is no driveway, only a broken shower and plumbing that needs to be fixed. this is the peregrine’s truth: he is homeless, but not for just a moment, but for all the time he’s ever known.

one night, we drop off kit in her house, in byron’s car, and as we make our way through northview, i see the houses. i see the gates, the driveways, the lawns, the porches. ‘i’ll have those someday’, i tell myself. i will find a clean, well-lighted place, as hemingway calls it, where i will not feel like i am alone, a place where i can look forward to go to every night knowing that it is mine. they say people move around because they are seeking out something. i seek that which i’ve never had in all my life.

a home is the sum of all souls living in a house. but as things stand, there is something wrong in my formula. some variables need fixing. a home is a mother and her youngest son. it is not to be divided by brothers who should be someplace else. and while the search has ended for now, the freak show continues.

they say we spend all our lives making it big ‘out there’, but what about ‘in here’, where we are at our worst and at our best, in the most private of all spaces we can afford ourselves in this world? this is the place where we are defined in the most intimate terms, in our most naked variation, our most obvious selves. nothing is more sacred than the comfort and the safety of having your own home. is it wrong to want to protect that sanctuary from those that seek to pillage and debase it?

where i sleep, where i eat, where i watch tv, where i listen to my cds, where i shit, where i will raise my kids, where i take care of my mother, where i pay the bills, where i read my books by my bedside lamp, where i cook the most awful meals i’ve ever eaten, where my clothes are washed, where my dishes are piled up on the sink, where my bed is, where my pillows are stained with my dreams, where my sheets lay bare and crumpled on the mattress — this is my fortress, this is my castle. here i am king, here i am slave, here i am free, here i am me.

but this house is not my house. i pay for the right to use it, but it will never be mine. the woman who owns it is a very good person, and has proven herself a friend time and again. but it is her house, and our friendship is based entirely on me paying good money on time, even though we both will never admit it.

and when it is time to move on, it will be another search. to make sure the fixtures are working. the flush is working. the apartment will have its own gate. its own door. its own windows. its own electric and water meter. accessible to the phone company. accessible to the cable guys. enough space for all our stuff. preferably with a porch. or a lawn, for all of mom’s plants. the kitchen sink must be divine, and not look like a thousand pigs puked in it. the sun should be visible in the laundry area. the floor should be tiled, waxed, polished before it is layered with carpet or linoleum. there has to be at least two bedrooms. the ceiling must not have cracks. rain should not be dripping from the roof. it must not flood in the area. it must be near a market. it should be accessible to the road.

it is a checklist that makes me wish i had ten million pesos so i can grab a property in tierra pura. i feel like nothing lass than a gated village will suffice. and maybe nothing will. but how to get from saturday afternoon househunts to a stable, secure house of my own is something i have to figure out first.

but in a poem, leroi jones says, “the only thing we know/is the only thing/we turn out to be”. and this i know. i will get there.

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